Hi! I’m Emily and I just began my blogging journey at Three Demps and a Dog. I’ve been married to my husband, Brian, for 2.5 years, and together we just had our first child, a son, who is now five months old!
I have a lot of friends who breastfed and knew my mom did when my sisters and I were young. To me, it just seemed natural to choose to breastfeed. My husband was totally on board with whatever I felt was right, plus he enjoyed the idea of breastfeeding since it is free and he is all about saving money wherever he can (we’re opposites ;)).
I had done a lot of research on breastfeeding and had it in my head that it would be challenging and may hurt. I often read The Breastfeeding Diaries on Julie’s blog and saw that the journey of breastfeeding looked different for everyone. I also knew it would be challenging in the sense of timing, since I was going back to work at six weeks postpartum.
After giving birth at 38 weeks, I realized I was in for something I didn’t expect. My son was born with low blood sugar and had jaundice. In order to raise his blood sugar, the nurses and LC encouraged me to pump and nurse as often as possible, but also suggested feeding formula in order to raise his blood sugar. Since I wanted to ensure that my son was healthy above anything else, I was find with supplementing with formula. I pumped as much colostrum as possible and we fed that via a syringe, since he was having a lot of difficulty with latching, which was due to a tongue tie (it was clipped at his first doctor’s appointment and wasn’t a challenge for very long).
After seeing the LC on our second day in the hospital, she recommended using a nipple shield in order to help my son to latch. I was happy to try it out, since it seemed like the best way for him to get what I felt was the best nutrition.
After leaving the hospital, we headed home in our new baby fog and I was determined to ditch the formula and breastfeed. However, at home, I started experiencing severe headaches whenever my son would latch on. The third day home, I just started bawling my eyes out as he attempted to latch because of the pounding headache I began to have. I wanted to give up so badly. My husband went out to get a little more formula and my sister came over to take care of the baby while I slept. After a few more attempts at giving breastmilk only, I realized that pumping did not give me a headache like my son latching on did. I began exclusively pumping at that time, and we weren’t using formula since I was pumping enough to satisfy his hunger. After about a week of only pumping, I decided to try to have him latch on again using the shield- and this time, no headache! Ever since, my son has been completely breastfed with no issues, other than needing the shield – which he hit off around 4 months and hasn’t used since. He loves eating and even doubled his birth weight before three months. Looking back, I attribute the headaches to the fact that I wasn’t eating right or getting my blood sugar high enough. I had no appetite. I always assumed I would be completely ravenous while breastfeeding but my midwife explained to me that it doesn’t happen to everyone, and that it’s actually normal to not have an appetite at all during the beginning stages of breastfeeding.
Honestly, many, many times, I wanted so badly to give up on breastfeeding, but thankfully had a great support system, including my mom, my friends, and my husband, who were encouraging me to keep going. My wonderful friend even attended breastfeeding support group with me, which was great. I felt one of the best things I did when I started out was talk about the challenges. I let people in and they really helped me survive.
I’ve been back to work full time since my son turned six weeks (America, you need to get it together with maternity leave!). I pump three times a day while I am away from him and feed on demand at home. Generally speaking, though, my son eats every three hours, which works out well for us. It’s been awesome to know that my body can produce every nutrient he needs in order to thrive!
While I am so, so happy to be able to feed my son in the way that I feel is best, I was totally surprised at how isolated I could feel at times. Everyone I know supports my breastfeeding journey, but I realized at times I felt like I had to be alone to feed him because of the shield, and the cover, and everything else involved. I feel like whenever I go out, people suggest to me where I could feed the baby. I realized that was much more difficult on me mentally because having a newborn can be isolating enough, and so I wanted to be in the same area as everyone else. I began telling people that I felt more comfortable staying in that room. No one has objected! I use my cover and now that my son has a lot of head control and is easier to move, and eats for a lot less time, it is way better than I imagined.
My friend, Erin, told me one day that “breastfeeding is the most selfless thing you will ever do”. She told me that in yet another moment, early on in my breastfeeding journey, when I really wanted to give up. Her words spoke to me so much. My advice to new moms who are wanting to breastfeed is this: keep trying. If you want to succeed in your breastfeeding journey, get past those first few weeks. Remember that your babe is new here, and has no idea how to eat. It’s a huge learning process. I felt like my son was latched on 24/7 for a few weeks, because he basically was. But once he got the hang of it, we hit our stride, and we are doing just fine!
I would also advise something else which was difficult for me: accept help. One day my friend walked into my house and begged to change my son’s diaper and also to put away my dishes. I refused at first and then thought to myself “why would I refuse this?”. She put away the dishes and changed a diaper. I finally got to pee, since I hadn’t done that all day long.
Lastly: feed your baby. If your baby needs formula, it’s ok. While mommy wars are real, and breastfeeding vs. formula feeding will continue forever, I think all moms can agree that what we most want is a healthy baby. I believe in doing that in any way possible!
Brittany Sanchez says
Thank you for Sharing! I loved reading about your journey. I am due in 7 weeks and I can't wait for our breastfeeding journey to begin. I think it's a beautiful sacrifice and I'm so thankful for this series. It's been encouraging and eye opening to see so many different perspectives!
Thanks for sharing Emily! I had a very similar struggle with Katalina had had to supplement with formula. Neither of my children would latch which made feeding time absolutely dreadful. It was very painful and I developed very bad headaches but had the appetite of a horse. At the end of the day, exclusively pumping worked for me. While I didn't have a baby attached to my boob 24/7, I was attached to my pump. I pumped at home, at work, at a friends, in the car, etc. It was non-stop! By 8 months, I was able to ditch the pump because I had so much breast milk in the freezer, but yet again, my world revolved around liquid gold. I was rotating, thawing, and filling bottles at a mind numbing pace.
You hit the nail on the head – baby wars will continue but we can agree that we all want what is best for our little ones which is see them happy and health. Feed them any way they will eat =)
Britanie Kostis says
Great job, mama! As a Canadian, It breaks my heart that American mamas return to work after 6 weeks! I hope and pray all the time that American Mamas (and baby's) get to experience the incredible benefits of a longer maternity leave!
I was just coming to write the same thing. As a Canadian and a new mother I honestly can't imagine how hard it must have been to go back to work at 6 weeks. I was still a raging hormonal mess at 6 weeks. Thank you for sharing your story. You are a super mom for keeping up with pumping and breastfeeding on demand. And you said it best – the best thing you can do is Feed your baby! Doesn't matter how. Period.